What is a Yak?
Yaks, scientifically known as Bos Grunniens (BG), belong to the same bovine family as the Asian Water Buffalo, the African Buffalo and the American Bison. Yaks vs buffalo: from our perspective, yaks rule! – Read on to learn why.
- Females are about 1/3 the size of males, which can grow to a height of 6.5 feet and weigh up to 2,200 pounds.
- Herds can be as small as 10 animals or as large as 100 beasts, comprised mainly of females and their offspring.
- Similar to humans, BG females typically birth a single baby after 9 months of gestation.
- A wild BG can live up to 20 years while their domesticated cousins typically have slightly longer lifespans.
- In our experience, BGs are not necessarily naturally friendly animals and will not let you near them if they do not know you. However, they do allow their herders to milk them and take care of them. A bit of advice from personal experience; do not try to milk a BG without her permission!
- Until very recently, BG was thought to be the highest-dwelling mammal in the world living at altitudes of 20,000 feet above sea level. The new altitude champion is the diminutive yellow-rumped leaf-eared mouse which has been found at elevations exceeding 22,000 feet.
To us at Chews Happiness though, yaks STILL RULE! As you can imagine, living at the top of the world is not easy. It’s cold. It’s windy. It’s snowy. And, it’s not easy to find the next meal.
So, how do they survive such extreme conditions?
- Similar to bison horns, yak horns enable the animals to break through ice & snow to find buried goodies.
- They enjoy multiple layers of thick, wooly coats, including an inner layer of down that is one of the warmest, softest, natural fibers. Their thick coats protect them against the elements in very low temperatures; they survive in cold weather with temperatures lower than -40 degrees Fahrenheit. BGs can swim in almost frozen waters while maintaining their body temperature.
- A critical element to the natural equipment that they are endowed with is yak down, the under layer of their winter coat that the animals naturally shed every year. It is one of the silky softest and warmest natural fibers. It is much more sustainable than cashmere, which results in overgrazing by cashmere goats, just as soft or even softer, and warmer.
- That’s why we chose yak down to make the most amazing, coziest and softest dog sweaters.
Why are Yaks Important?
BGs are a linchpin for the alpine ecosystem. As herbivores, they graze on grass, moss, flowers, and tubers while continually fertilizing alpine landscapes. Without them, the complex, interlinked ecosystem at the top of the world could crash.
For eons, herders have lived high in the Himalayas, tending to their beasts roaming & grazing semi-wildly, naturally and sustainably. Chews Happiness supports this traditional lifestyle and culture.
Our experience with yaks is not academic; we have personally met many BGs in our travels to Bhutan and Mongolia. So, we know that they are amazing creatures. In addition to acting as an anchor to ecosystems and traditional lifestyles on the top of the world, we have learned that BGs produce essential and natural goods.
- Yak down, as discussed, an extremely rare and sustainable fiber. Each BG only produces a kilogram (2.2 lbs.) of down fiber per year, which is approximately how much a tiny German angora rabbit produces!
- Extremely healthy dairy products. Since they are free-range grazers, BGs’ milk is loaded with antioxidants such as Carotenoids and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). Herders rely on this milk and make delicious cheese and butter. Your dog can enjoy yak cheese in our Barkaron® super healthy Decadent Doggie Desserts®!
- The softest, warmest dog sweaters in the universe: Happiness Hugs, the only dog sweaters handcrafted from yak down.
Learn more about how we transform this amazing fiber into the most cozy, warmest, softest apparel by visiting our Crafted with Care Page.